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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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Illinois State House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 10

Photo of Melissa Conyears

Melissa Conyears

Democratic
Insurance Professional
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Fairer Education Funding
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Job Creation

Experience

Experience

Profession:Insurance Professional
Relationship Manager, CS Insurance Strategies (2014–current)
Claims Manager, Allstate Insurance (1999–2013)
Personal Banker, First Chicago (1998–1999)

Education

Roosevelt University MBA, Finance & HR Management (2007)
Eastern Illinois University BS, Finance (1997)

Community Activities

Superintendent - Sunday School Youth, Mt. Vernon MB Church (2006–current)
Executive Board Member, 28th Ward Democratic Organization (2012–current)
President, Member, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc (1996–current)

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (15)

Do you support term limits for legislators? Do you support term limits for legislative leaders? Please explain.
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I believe voters could benefit from having new voices and new ideas on a regular basis. But if term limits are going to be applied to the legislature, they should be applied so they include statewide officials, as well. Otherwise all the legislature would be doing is empowering statewide officials, such as the governor, and not holding statewide officers to same standard.

Who do you think bears responsibility for the budget stalemate? Do you have your own ideas on how to resolve it?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

Both the legislature and the governor are responsible for implementing a state budget that meets the needs of our local families. But we shouldn’t be pointing fingers, what we need to do is take stock in what the failure to pass a budget meant in terms of human costs. How many families and children worried about the possible closure of schools without state funding, how many seniors went without meals or homecare without state funding, how many victims of domestic violence were unable to get the services they need without state funding, how many local working families went without needed childcare. Those who truly care about our families and our state have worked to pass plans that fund the programs our families rely on. I understand the state faces serious financial challenges, and I believe we can work together to find reasonable solutions to trim spending that is unnecessary while finding new revenue that is needed to keep vital programs operational. Some ways of generating new revenue for the state that I support are increasing taxes in millionaires and closing corporate tax loopholes.

A June 3 New York Times op-ed was headlined “Higher Education in Illinois is Dying” because of significant funding cuts. Do you agree or not with Gov. Bruce Rauner that additional large cuts could be necessary?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I disagree with the governor’s thinking that more cuts are needed to higher education. The idea is irresponsible. Thanks to plans to slash state support for higher education to the bone, Chicago State University faced the possibility of closing. Even after the school received emergency funding, it had to lay off employees. The loss of good-paying jobs devastates our economy; it doesn’t turn it around. Furthermore, thousands of students were forced to leave college or delay college because the governor would not support funding for MAP grants. When elected officials refuse to invest in our children’s education, they are failing our students and destroying their futures. While there may be parts of colleges’ and universities’ budgets that could stand closer scrutiny and be streamlined, to call for massive 30 percent cuts to all colleges and universities as the governor did is reckless and irresponsible. 

How should the state’s school funding formula be changed to give all children a better chance at a quality education?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

Chicago’s public schools have been shortchanged by the state for years It’s time for that to come to an end. Chicago’s taxpayers contribute mightily to the revenue collected by the state, so it is only right and fair that the city’s schools receive the funding they deserve. To help children in struggling communities, I support providing additional dollars to schools where poverty is high and where children come from poorer households. No child should receive any less of education because they live in a different ZIP code.

Without a budget, Illinois is spending much more than it takes in, leading to an ever-growing stack of bills, underfunded services and a growing deficit. What new revenue sources do you support to help fix this problem?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I support closing corporate tax loopholes, increasing taxes rates on millionaires, passing a graduated income tax so higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate while the middle class and lower-wage families pay less, eliminating or combining duplicative programs, combining the offices of the state comptroller and state treasurer. 

A constitutional amendment is on the ballot that would require money raised for transportation not be spent elsewhere. Do you support this concept? Also, transportation planners say more money is needed for roads and bridges, Metra, CTA rail services and the like. Do you agree and, if so, where would you get the funding?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I support a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding. Our mass transit, roads and bridges are in dire need of constant repair, and the last full construction program the state had was passed seven years ago. The state needs to again make an investment in our infrastructure. I support closing corporate tax loopholes, increasing taxes rates on millionaires, passing a graduated income tax so higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate while the middle class and lower-wage families pay less, eliminating or combining duplicative programs, combining the offices of the state comptroller and state treasurer. 

In the last session, the governor and Legislature turned their attention away from pension reform. What initiatives do you support to reduce the costs of pensions?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

This is a $100-billion issue and one that years and years of neglect and underfunding by governors and legislators created. Attempts to address this issue have been found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so any new proposal must be carefully crafted. I know something has to be done to address this issue, for the sake of taxpayers, our communities, and the future retirement of workers who have played by the rules and are counting on a retirement, which in most cases is modest. Knowing the seriousness of this problem, I believe all those involved can come to a solution that acknowledges this is a problem that must be fixed, but one that cannot be fixed using unconstitutional language or a plan that destroys workers’ futures. 

Do you support measures to reduce Illinois’ prison population and divert more money into community-based services?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

Criminal justice reform issues are complex – there is no panacea or simple fix. I am supportive of efforts to make sure Illinois’ youth and others are not penalized their entire lives for mistakes, but I also believe that those who commit violent crimes must be held accountable, especially when we read every day about more deadly shootings on our streets. Victims of crimes must be heard, as should their families. Our neighbors want our streets to be safe. I believe by working together we can make positive reforms while still making sure that the most dangerous criminals are kept off our streets.

There are calls to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture system, which allows police and prosecutors to seize and take – permanently – property from someone who has not been convicted of a crime? What is your view?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

This is not an issue that I have heard much about talking to residents in my district. They are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system – something that for too long many local residents have felt has been non-existent and they are concerned with getting guns off our streets and ending the violence we see every day. 

 

Do you support allowing transgender persons born in Illinois to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery first?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I’d want to know the details of proposed laws on this topic. It’s something that should be discussed with all stakeholders and legislators.

What is your view on so-called “death with dignity” — physician-assisted suicide — which has become a contentious issue in other states? California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9.
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

This is not an issue that I’ve heard a lot about in my district, but with such a complex issue on life and death matters, this is not something to be considered lightly. There are passionate voices on both sides of this issue, and I believe their voices need to be heard. 

What measures do you support to reduce levels of gun violence?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

Tragically, not a day can go by without hearing about a shooting in our city – or worse, hearing about a shooting or witnessing one in our own neighborhoods. Almost as many people have been shot so far this year in Chicago as were shot in the city all last year. Words cannot begin to express the anger, frustration and fear local residents feel about the grip that deadly weapons on our streets has on our entire city. We need action. Tighter background checks and cracking down on those who illegally buy guns for others are two needed steps to getting guns out of our neighborhoods and saving lives. I support requiring gun dealers to be licensed. I support getting guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and the mentally ill. I support an assault weapons ban. I support background checks on anyone purchasing a firearm.

A number of states and local jurisdictions (including Chicago) have recently increased the minimum wage. Do you support or oppose a statewide increase in the minimum wage? If so, what should the new minimum be, and by when? Should local jurisdictions be prohibited from passing their own minimum wage laws?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I support increasing the minimum wage statewide. The current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour makes it impossible for struggling working men and women to provide for their families. We need to take steps to help those who are earning the minimum wage to earn a living wage. Illinois voters have overwhelmingly stated their support for an increase in the minimum wage. This issue deserves more discussion in the legislature on what the increase should be statewide. Proposals have been offered to increase the minimum wage to $10.65 an hour. I could support that increase, and I believe local governments should be able to pass their own minimum wage laws that could be higher than the state minimum wage, but should not be allowed to pass laws that would make the local wage lower than the statewide wage.

In the past couple of legislative sessions, there has been a proposal to add a 1 cent tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Illinois. Do you support or oppose such a measure, and why?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

I would need to see the specifics of the bill and what the revenue generated would be invested in. 

In recent years, there has been a growing push to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources. Do you support or oppose these preferences?
Answer from Melissa Conyears:

There are a number of proposals and ideas to increase the use of renewable energy and to increase the use of emission-free energy. Our focus on these issues cannot be narrow but must think long-term what the impact will be on local jobs, consumer costs, and the state of the environment we are leaving behind for future generations. The state must position itself to meet the energy needs of consumers for decades to come at affordable costs while creating and creating jobs and preserving our environment.

Videos (1)

Melissa Conyears tells why she should be the state representative from the 10th district.

Candidate Contact Info

Email mconyear@yahoo.com

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